You can't understand human culture in the 21st century without understanding American culture, and as anyone who's spent time in most any major U.S. city knows, you certainly can't understand American culture without understanding Latino culture. I write this while traveling in Los Angeles, a city that makes that point with particularly impressive force, but just a few moments with an overview of Latino art will underscore the vitality it has provided America, and thus the world. You could do little better for such an overview than the Google Cultural Institute's brand new Latino Cultures in the U.S. project, a sizable free digital archive of Latino art and artifacts of Latino history.
Forbes' Veronica Villafañe quotes Google and Youtube Head of Hispanic Communications Jesús García as describing the archive as "a labor of love for many Googlers and partner institutions. It was a project that was more than a year in the making and took a small army to help digitize the 2,500 new artworks and curate 69 new exhibits."
As a whole it offers "over 4,300 archives and artworks — including Diego Rivera murals — related to the Latino experience in the U.S., multimedia exhibits in English and Spanish and virtual tours of historic sites, as well as profiles of key Latino figures, such as Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor."
Google Head of Latino Community Engagement Laura Marquez notes that it also allows you to "visit some of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the U.S. — the homes to and centers of Latino culture— by way of historic photographs or unmissable locations on Google Street View, all from your phone." You'll also find "ultra-high resolution images of iconic Latino murals, such as Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry from the Detroit Institute of Arts." Using the formidable exploratory platform of Google Earth, the project has also created a whole Latino Murals in the U.S. section, from Rivera's work in Detroit to José Clemente Orozco's Prometheus in California to the Miami Artisans' Freedom Tower mural at Miami Dade College.
You can also browse the Latino Cultures in the U.S. Project's offerings by form, including dance, film, music, and style. And though the designs of Oscar de la Renta, the songs of Gloria Estefan, the paintings of Frank Romero (and, of course, lowriders) have drawn the interest of many a non-Latino toward Latino culture, what has done quite so much outreach as the food? Google's project even covers that territory with content like an editorial feature on "Fast Food, Tortillas, and the Art of Accepting Yourself" by Javier Cabral, a food critic based, and well known, in — where else? — Los Angeles.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.